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"So I guess this is where I'm supposed to introduce myself. I'm a Canadian male teaching ESL in Seoul, Republic of Korea. This will be my second stint teaching ESL, only this time I'll be teaching at a High School, using my actual teaching experience to use. If you have any questions, please feel free to e-mail me - no question's too small. Take care, and enjoy the ride."

Other Blogs of Note

  • Student in Korea
  • Seoul Man
  • The Daily Kimchi
  • Surviving South Korea
  • Books I'm Reading

  • "Colossus: The Rise and Fall of the American Empire" by Niall Ferguson
  • "Hardboiled Wonderland and the End of the World" by Haruki Murakami
  • "The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order" by Samuel P. Huntington
  • "The Moral Consequences of Economic Growth" by Benjamin M Friedman
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  • The umbrella conspiracy..... Tuesday, May 29, 2007 |

    If their were a conspiracy group for those who believe that all umbrella's are manufactured by a major conglomerate of companies who strictly are in it to make money hand over fist, then I would like to apply for membership.
    So far this year, I've unfortunately spent over 20,000 Won on umbrella's, and the rainy season hasn't even started yet. I've gone through two umbrella's, and I'm working on my third; my first being a piece of junk that I found lying around, the second I purchased at a reputable store, and my third a semi-automatic opening closing mid-size. I know that I'll end up buying yet another umbrella, as this years rainstorms have proved to be drenching and windy enough to tear your umbrella a new one...And yes, in Korea, umbrella's are sophisticated enough to draw automobile analogies.
    First, you have the compact mini size. Cheap and often looked down on by the upper-crust of umbrella users, these umbrella's are usually black, and can be found left on subways, buses, and inside taxi's, where their size leaves them easily forgettable. They are also easily destroyed in one fell swoop, if the situations are right. Then, they are discarded, virtually a right-off. Their are high-market compacts available, (think SMART cars) but they're all the same - one ding, and they're done.
    Next, you have the mid-size range. These are often more expensive, and can withstand a little wind and rain before they give out - but not much. They range from the cheaper variety of simple black with wooden handles, to the higher-ranged curved/rubber-enhanced grips, with semi-automatic opening and closing. These also come in a wide variety of colours, from plaid to simple black. Widely affordable, for many, this is the best option. They too however, similar to the compact size, are virtually a right-off after a full-scale onslaught of wind and rain. However, because of their size and heavier weight, they are often held onto by their owners, and not left anywhere; a safe and trusty surefire safe bet for any user. Both the compact and mid-sized umbrella's try to fool you with fancy names of "Parisian" origin, for style points. This however is just a pathetic ploy, as they're all made by the same shit-for-brains companies who build them to die after five uses, so you come back to them for another one. Name's mean nothing - only durability... (I should add however that if were the opportunity to purchase an umbrella made by the "Tank", or "Indestructable" were for sale, I would feel naively buy one and feel safer using it)
    And then their's the queen-bee of umbrella's, or for those of you who know this reference, the "Chairman" of umbrella's -the full-sized golf-umbrella. For those who don't know, golf is a status symbol in Korea. If you golf, or can afford to, you're lucky. For most, the above-ground golf-ranges are as close as they'll get to the course, and with green-fee's at over 150,000 Won for 18 holes - and up - theirs a reason that many can only wish they could go golfing. So many resort to the full-sized golf-umbrella instead. However, don't think that anyone can join this elite club. Just because you wear golf-clothing doesn't make you a golfer. Oh no....just because you carry a golf-umbrella doesn't mean its a "real" umbrella. Cheap imitations abound....many a Korean has bought a golf-umbrella on the subway, thinking it to be of high-quality. Only to be let down after the first storm, when their umbrella falls apart faster than George Bush's approval ratings. That's what separates the "real" winners from the wannabes....so to speak. They'll parade in their "Ping", "Titleist", and "Pinnacle" golf umbrellas, and be the envy of everyone who's drenched by the horizontal rain that falls in this country....
    I for one am both a compact and mid-sized owner - one's for emergency purposes, and stays with me always. My mid-size only comes out when i KNOW its going to rain - which, if you go by the weather reports in this country, seems to be hovering around a 20% success rate.
    The only question is, which owner are you?

    a new take on arranged marraiges... Sunday, May 27, 2007 |

    Well, last week I finally got in touch with an old student of mine from my previous working place. It was good to hear from him, as he has finally gotten free from his former workplace, where he wasn't treated all too well. His bosses generally took advantage of his good-nature, and forced him into too many ethical situations, which they blamed on him whenever things went poorly, but taking the credit when things worked out.
    The interesting thing however was finding out that his cousin, who was also an acquaintance of mine was getting married. On the two previous occasions where my student had treated me to an evening of dinner and relaxing at an outdoor gold-and-silver spa, his cousin Sun had accompanied us. The first time she came was out of curiousity and wanting to meet me, and the second time was because I was expecting to be leaving the country, and she wanted to wish me travel wishes, and see how I was. Through getting to know her, I found out that although she was a typical Korean late-twenties woman (beautiful, intelligent, and single) she wanted to stay single, and had no intention of ever marrying. She swore she wasn't the marrying type, and claimed that although her parents wished otherwise, she wouldn't get married.
    Fast forward to the conversation that took place when I was talking, when I found out that she's getting married during the first week of June. I asked my old student why this was so, seeing as how she had sworn off marrying for a number of reasons. Turns out that her parents had basically arranged her marriage, and were forcing her hand. Her parents had set up the date/meeting with her now-finance's family, and being an obedient daughter, she had gone on the date, but thought nothing more of him. Her parents, wishing her to get married, forced her hand. When she protested, and said that she would rather move out of her house (often, in traditional households, the daughters live at home until they marry; some are even forbid from moving out on their own). Her parents refused her request. Apparently, a battle of wills ensued, and in the end, Sun gave in, and decided it would be easiest on her life if she just got married.
    Even though Korea's stepped forward into the twenty-first century, a lot of the old traditions still stick around, especially with some of the very-traditional families. Sun's family is happy, because her future husband is very wealthy, something her family is happy about; she won't have to work- she can stay home and start a family - something they also want. Her future family is happy, because they know that Sun comes from a good family, looks pretty, and is educated.
    Sometimes, living in this country makes you feel like you're stepping back in time. Its safe to say that as can already be witnessed, Western influences of youthful independence are making some of these traditions mute. Their will still be those who faithfully adhere, making the present feel a lot more like the past....

    Korean attitudes about sharing... Monday, May 21, 2007 |

    Remember that old Raffi song...?
    It's mine but you can have some, with you I'd like to share it.
    'Cause if I share it with you, you'll have some too.
    But if I have a cake to eat,
    and if I have a tasty treat,
    If you come to me and ask....I'll share it with you!
    Well, welcome to the pervading ideology inside South Korea. Nothing here is beyond the realm of being "shareable", so to speak. Starting at an early age, Korean babies are often fed the same ice cream snacks that the rest of the family is eating, or drinks that the parents are drinking. And in true Korean style, if you don't give the baby what it wants, it will whine and complain until they are ripe and old....oh wait, they still do that - never mind.
    Sharing is one the things that goes hand in hand with the friendships and relationships in Korea. Most kids won't move very often in their lifetime, so their friends in their class will often stay the same, especially those in the same class. Their friends will stay the same through their elementary, middle, and high school days. Most likely, they'll also attempt to attend the same university. And through all of those institutions, they'll share food, drinks, and pretty much nearly anything without complaining - they'll give each other grief about it, but they'll do it, because that's their friend.
    Want to go to the theater? Go ahead and pick up the "Lovers combo" - big box of popcorn and a mega-gulp size drink with two straws, on opposite sides of the cup...touching. What's more comical is when you see boys buying it - strangely enough, its also one of the cheapest options.
    Another thing shared is cosmetics - not being one to use them, I'm going on my Korean friends word that this is often the case.
    Clothing, shoes (good googles they have shoes coming out of everywhere), you name it, its shared. And ironically enough, my sweaty gym shoes are also being used by someone at my local gym (where shoe storage is free).
    Their friendship belief plays into everything, which is one of the reasons that its particularly hard to make close friends with Koreans; by the time they are in their mid-twenties, many Koreans already have a fair number of close friends - the rest of their new friends will normally be acquaintances. Just another way that Korea is different from North America.
    take care all, and God bless,

    the English zone of probability.... Thursday, May 17, 2007 |

    It's something that I call the English zone of probability…and in simple terms, this is what it means. One of the novelties that I've written about is that when you're on the subway, bus, or walking, when people speak, yell, or mumble Korean all around you, you learn to block it out really quickly, and ignore what's not pertinent to you. The opposite effect is that when you hear English, you usually turn around, and wonder who it is that's speaking; its somewhat of a natural instinct, especially when they're asking questions – for all I know, they're talking to me.
    This is where the English zone of probability comes in. For some reason, and I've only noticed this recently, when people see me, while walking, or waiting behind me for a stoplight, or on the bus or subway, they just start practicing their English, as if I'm on their conscience, and making them feel guilty for not practicing more. This was very noticeable when my middle school first graders went to Everland for the day. My students didn't know how to recognize me, because I wasn’t wearing my professional dress, and I couldn't recognize them, because they weren't wearing their uniforms….(you'd think it was the opposite – the uniforms strikingly make it easier for me to tell them apart; each student wears their uniform differently – if that doesn't make sense, its hard to explain). As I was walking around taking pictures, the students (their were more than ten schools from my area who were all at Everland) all reverted to speaking English around me. It was weird, mainly because it happened quite frequently.
    I'm sure that I'm not the only person who this happens to – and maybe I'm just weird that I'm noticing this now, when it could have been happening to me earlier. One of the things that I'm noticing is the increasing of English speakers in Korea – their rapid English immersion seems to be paying dividends, because it seems everywhere I'm going, even in Bundang, theirs more English speakers…This is only going to get more and more prevalent too.
    Well, I'm done working…for today.
    Take care all, and God bless

    nanoseconds and more.... Tuesday, May 08, 2007 |

    I'm sitting here on the patio of my officetel apartment, and I'm enjoying the remainder of this beautiful spring that we’ve had so far. And while my family back home has had the joy of experiencing snow when their should be plants blooming, here in Korea, spring has been the type of spring that you see on postcards and the like; not too hot, not too cool; just perfect. The cherry blossoms were in bloom for a nice long time, and it seemed just perfect; almost as if time stood still for a while. As I sit here (I've made it somewhat of a habit – I come home from work, make myself a tea, sit on my patio, and when I look out in front of me, it doesn’t seem like I'm in the middle of a major city with 13million plus people, and I read), I've been contemplating.
    It didn’t last long, trust me. However, having just had a birthday, it got me thinking…as in those “what in blazes am I doing with my life” types of thoughts. This is my third birthday in Korea, and when I let that sink in, it got me thinking why I came to Korea in the first place.
    Like most foreigners, I came to Korea planning on pulling a “One and done” type deal; pay off my student loans, not get attached, and enjoy the ride – that was my mantra. However, like many of those before me (and after, I'm sure) I got attached to the country, and decided to stay longer. I'm now working on my two plus years in this country, and while it really feels like home, I'm reminded of reason why many teachers feel guilty teaching here in Korea; we know that no matter what we would like to think, except for the small minority who marry Korean citizens, this job is not permanent – as in, the longer you stay, the more you're avoiding the obvious; that being, eventually you have to come home. I've been incredibly blessed wherever I've been to in Korea. Not only has God provided for me with friends and co-workers who have treated me so well, but I've also been able to explore and travel through other countries that I wouldn't have previously dreamt about while attending my old high school…(may it rest in peace). Never mind the traveling part, but being the worst English student in all of my high school English classes didn’t exactly make me think that I would be doing what I’m doing now (I'm ashamed to admit that I was the un-proud recipient of a 67% in grade nine and something worse in grade ten English). However, teaching English, and not wanting to be embarrassed by your students has a way of expediting your memory and understanding.
    The other thing that that nanosecond of contemplating made me realize was how easy it is to fall in love with teaching here. Reading some of the other blogs from fellow teachers and residents of this country, you can see a trend – that is, students for the most part falling in love with their teacher. These children here have such a love for attention, that it’s the perfect union of teacher-student relationship. The students crave the attention that teachers can provide, and the teachers crave the attention of knowing that people from a different culture accept them. Take it from a teacher who had students calling him “Daddy” when I taught at my prior institute – these children crave attention – male or female, they love it, and respond in great measures when you show it.
    Well, enough of the reminiscing. My tea has run out, and I'm going to get to reading my book before the sunlight runs out outside. If you're ever bored, check out some of the other blogs on Korea – they’re a much better read than mine, and they include pictures too….I won't lie, I'm generally too lazy to do all that work; all the more power to them. If one can't travel, its best to do it vicariously; much cheaper.
    Take care all, and God bless,